Wednesday, April 22, 2009

(I wrote this last year, and since I have had to be away from my home and routine for some five weeks now, I haven't been able to write. So I republish this, in tribute to my mother and grandmothers and all who have rocked the cradle with love).

For Mothers Long Gone and Mothers Now

This street had seen its time of glory
I mused that night at summer's end
But left off thoughts of former history
As lightning now the sky did rend

Hastening towards my car parked yonder
The tenor of the air now changed
Came the flood as I ran weeping
Tears confounded in the rain

There were letters in the lightning
Missives racing down the street
Quickened words, electric hissing
Urging me this very night

Remember those who were, but now
Are gone, forgotten in the gloam
Who did in-dwell these ancient houses
Where love and faith once made their home.

Now on wind-swept porch lies only
Unclaimed news and broken chair
Once sat Mama singing sweetly
While she combed out sister's hair

In the yard now brambled, trampled
Once grew pretty roses fair
Hollyhocks and yellow daisies
Grown with tender loving-care

By the matron queen who nurtured
Each bud, and each rose-cheeked babe
But hands that soothed the brow of husband
Now rest, silent in the grave.

What justice or what mercy
Forbids not time to wash away
careful mending, curtains lacy
But lets her deeds all meet decay?

Why no lingering fragrance
Of soups and stews and baking bread?
No candle beckons weary family
For most of those she loved are dead

Mens' work of old still speaks of them
In mortar, bricks, and written word
No praise she sought to sew a hem
To build up lives she much preferred.

Still stand houses, pavement stays
Coarse strangers there, with strangers' ways.
Weep not her place knows her no more;
Her love's paved steps to heaven's door.

For love lives on, in heaven stays
Safe from storm, and ravaged age.
Good's not wasted, nor she who prays.
Virtue gains a golden wage.

Her work done, we take it up
of nurture,  home, and the regular folk
If her mansion above have a front-porch swing
I'll know I'm home when I hear Mama sing.

by Gail Aggen

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Published October 30, 2009


"Thy wife [shall be] as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house" Psalm 128:3

This is what I strive to be, but like the green plant's struggle to break free from the earthen womb and climb higher toward the sun, so is my struggle to keep reaching higher in God's plan for my life.

So when the pressures, the negativity, and the trials come to crush me to the ground, that is when this little vine must reach up toward the Sun of Righteousness, that I may grow toward Him, defying gravity as I do!

Friday, April 17, 2009


There certainly is a solution to the problem of the rampant, escalating rate of violence and murder in our land. The callousness of people's behavior, the forceful seizing of other people's property, and the cheapening of human life can be reversed, indeed!

This requires some very simple, but very radical changes in our lives. Although I am a person of faith, I could, even as an atheist who has studied the evidence, say that first we need some kind of religious revival. The individual members of our society need to get re-calibrated (that is, form consensus and adhere) to the values espoused in admonitions such as "love your neighbor as yourself", "do unto others as you would have them do unto you", and "do not steal, do not kill, do not covet . . .", etc., and even "love your enemies", and "do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good". A society embracing these values would begin to produce some very good and "peaceable" fruit.

Going on from here, we would need to voluntarily return to a society that in many ways would look more like that of pre-WWII. Here is the radical part: one of you needs to stay home full-time, in order to be a guardian to the home, the children, and the community. Even those who do not have small children in the home need to maintain a presence in the everyday community. Single parents who are unable to work from home could especially benefit from your help. This model is essential because we need to start valuing our common life and its nucleus, the home, as much as we do our material possessions.

Would you leave your brand new car unlocked (with your Ipod on the front seat) in the parking lot at the mall while you spent the entire day inside shopping? Would you leave your house windows wide open and the doors unlocked while you went away for the weekend? Or put a sign on your front door when you leave for work in the morning that says "No one will be home all day so anyone who reads this is welcome to come in and do what you want in our house. Please take away or destroy anything from here as you please" ? How ridiculous! People who would do this would be certifiable or fools or both!

Why then, do we leave what is truly precious, our moral health, our families, our human community to the dogs of depravity? Why take such good prenatal care of our babies, monitor their health, development and well-being as infants and then abandon them to the culture of death as soon as they can sit up in front of a glowing screen? Why also the rush to stick them with care-giving surrogates (on said screen and with human ones) whose values may not be ours and whose "care" may be questionable or negligent? Why do we keep the windows shut so as to keep out the rain and bugs, but leave our teenagers in the house alone while we take off for the weekend?

Because we need "our space" and our things?

Because this culture is now out of control, we may have noticed that our space is shrinking and our things are rotting. Our space? Please, we need to grow up. And yes, of course nobody wants to live in an unsafe neighborhood so they think a big fancy house in a "great school district" is mandatory. But in the last year I have heard about or attended the funerals of several young people who lived in the "great school district". I would never, ever blame individual parents for any of this, because they may have done everything right, but their children fell victim to bad people and the culture itself. Only as a community together can we change things for each of us, but each of us must start with changing ourselves and our lifestyles.

My point is that as people's behavior becomes good, so would their surroundings. Better to have to rent a tiny house, have one old car, and have your children home, helping you hang clothes out on the line while you talk with them about important things. Or have them do garden chores or help with meal preparation after school in a neighborhood full of families who have decided to do the same. We need to be people who adhere to the principles that were literally etched in stone a long time ago and upon which our civilization was founded.

Those who by word and example teach love and respect to their children, who

mind their own business, live within their means, stay out debt, and teach their children to do the same, are people who create a culture of life, not death.

Or as a wise person once said, "Better a dry crust with peace and quiet
than a house full of feasting, with strife.".

Monday, April 06, 2009


Sweet dogwood bridesmaids
and tulip tree
sweet cherry blossom
pink royalty

Crabapple's blossom
its fragrance sweet
its fruit though bitter
yields jellied treat

Here come the brides now
Bradford Pears in
puffy white gowns
like crinoline

Gracing traveled lanes
pastel colors
in bright profusion,
Winter's dolors

seem but illusion
our hearts now wake
from frozen slumber
new steps to take

trusting gentle maids
in flowered gowns
bid us to follow
to summer's crown

Thursday, April 02, 2009


Note: This is a continuation of the previous post.

I, the procrastinator, know better than most anyone how things just don't work out (an understatement of biblical proportions) when one does not plan ahead and one leaves everything for the last minute. So as I have finally learned, for us to experience a Sunday that is lived "decently and in order", I must plan and do things ahead of time.

As the bible says, there is a time and a season for every purpose under heaven. So, in terms of really enjoying a day of worship and rest, we have to push ourselves a bit during the week, not taking such big breaks maybe, so we can savor the Sabbath as an entire day of rest and recreation. What does this mean practically?

First, we come up with a plan. Make the grocery list to incorporate the Sunday menu, and then shop for everything during the week. When planning said menu, perhaps we might want to do something simple like grilling some meat outdoors and accompanying that with a salad and sides that could be put together the day before.
Or the entire meal could be assembled or started on Saturday night, as in a stew or hearty soup. The Pilgrims used to simmer a pot of beans through the night on Saturday so that they would not have to cook on Sunday, hence the famous "Boston Baked Beans". The traditional New England boiled dinner, with its corned beef or smoked picnic and vegetables would also be a good Sunday choice.

A community meal, moreover, is a great way to combine a lessening of labor with a beautiful time of fellowship, either done at church after the service as some churches do once a month, or with family and friends at home or in the park.

Coming from an Italian background, I remember that Sunday dinner was always done at midday, or at least by 2 p.m. That would give the family a chance to relax afterwords, and mama's "big work" was done early so she could enjoy the rest of the day. She could then just serve a ham sandwich on hard rolls or some other light fare in the evening. It still irks me when I don't plan well enough to do this and I end up scrubbing pots and pans after dark on Sunday night!

Besides, making this switch sets the day off as something special. I remember our neighbor, the resident atheist and cynic commenting on this practice, saying "I don't know why people have to have a big Sunday dinner in the afternoon. Sunday is just another day like the others. Uhh, NO!!!!!!!!!!!!! It is not and that is the whole point.

By the way, this is also the guy whose house was always immaculate, but who commented in spite of my messy house full of children, "There is something different about your house, there is a certain presence here that is very peaceful", or words to that effect.

I responded with, "Yes, that's the Holy Spirit". He didn't come over again for two years!

How can we prepare our house for the Sabbath? Simple. Clean it and do yard work on Friday and Saturday. Now this is simple but not easy. You have to keep picking things up and putting them away as well as making to-do lists of some sort throughout the week. Don't leave all the work till Friday and Saturday, if you can help it. And like I said, with little children, my house did not always look photo-op ready. But I tried and so can anybody.

Nowadays, my husband, God bless him, has fallen in love at this late juncture (we've been married 27 years) with keeping the laundry done and put away even! He will throw in a load on Sunday, and I often need to appeal to him by saying, "Even the machines need a rest once a week". And I believe this is true. We wouldn't work our oxen 7 days a week, so I think that God will bless our work machines too, if we give them a rest. Hey, my washing machine lasted for 24 years!!

Speaking of oxen, as in those proverbial oxen whom the Lord proposed we rescue if the fell in a ditch on the Sabbath: We need to remember that we probably won't be able to keep the Sabbath perfectly, to the letter of the law, and we can take comfort in remembering that we are no longer under the law anyway. So we put forth a good effort with a pure heart during the week to prepare for the Sabbath, and the rest is under the covering of the precious blood, right?

So why is it important to desire to put forth this effort to keep the Lord's Day holy anyway? Because it's the Lord's Day and He desires it for the proper worship due to Him and for the refreshment and restoration of His people. In light of this, I am, with God's help, going to make more of an effort to get things done by a reasonable time on Saturday, so that I can come away for a time of prayer, Scripture study and preparation for the Sunday worship service. For the Jews, the Sabbath begins at sundown on the night before, and that is a worthy thing for us to do if we can manage it. Light the candles, have a nice meal, clean the kitchen and put your feet up.

So what should our stance be as regards shopping or going to restaurants on Sunday? Well, I believe that even the unbelievers should not be put in a position to labor for us on the Lord's Day unless they are the necessary keepers of the peace, the hospital workers or any of those who oversee the general welfare of the people (as in utility workers, for example).

Back in the ancient days of my childhood before convenience store chains had been established, we had these little neighborhood mom-and-pop stores, along with the supermarkets. The supermarkets and big retail would all be shuttered on Sunday and the little corner stores would either open for a couple of hours on a Sunday morning or open up around sundown for a bit. This, to me, is entirely reasonable, because sometimes your ox really does fall in a ditch and you need milk for those children or some such thing. But alas, those "blue law" days lie in the distant past, along with big family dinners and long walks through the fields with Daddy, looking for wild berries in the summer or animal tracks in the snowy winter.

Or do they? Did you know we are still, for the moment anyways, free people and we can still set ourselves apart from the ways of the world and do things God's way? Didn't your mother ever say to you, "So, I suppose if Johnny jumps off a bridge you will jump off, too?". Well, sadly, I think we have jumped off that bridge, but God is in the Resurrection business and we can climb back up the cliff and start over. The stores, hair salons and everything else might be open but that doesn't mean we have to darken their doors on the Lord's Day, does it? I know, with everyone working so much, most of us don't have enough of that precious commodity, time, to set ourselves apart and stay home.

But did you know that the price of everything, especially big-ticket items like cars and houses absolutely took off like a skyrocket when women joined the workforce en masse? And that advertising simply went steroidal with raising the standards of housekeeping and yardkeeping and must-haves? We have been conditioned like lab dogs to salivate at the sight of all this worldly nonsense, to believe we NEED to keep up with the mythical Joneses or have massive flower beds or Coach purses or whatever, but the truth is, we don't need all this stuff to live a joyous, rich life. Now that people are losing their jobs en masse, we might want to re-examine the old ways of the one-income families to find the hidden treasure of time-rich living, as opposed to materialistic living.

My prayer in this economic upheaval is that the prices would come down to reasonable, fair levels, and therefore families could choose not to owe their lives to the company store. This would help us in our Sabbath-keeping and most likely in most other ways to honor the Lord. May the Holy Spirit guide us into all truth in these matters and may you be blessed in your daily walk with Him.

"Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee.
Six days thou shalt labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day [is] the sabbath of the LORD thy God: [in it] thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that [is] within thy gates; that thy manservant and thy maidservant may rest as well as thou. And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and [that] the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the LORD thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day."

Deuteronomy 5:12-15.